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APNM News:

May 20, 2004 - SPECIAL ALERT

Animal Advocates Needed to Speak Out for New Mexico's Threatened Cougars

To all wildlife advocates in New Mexico,
Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) has just learned that NM Game and Fish is gathering public input on cougars and bears and the current regulations regarding their management. The cougars desperately need letters from you on their behalf.
For the last eight years, APNM has been working to ensure a sustainable cougar population in New Mexico, and we have relied almost entirely on the valuable results of Dr. Kenneth Logan's pre-eminent 10-year study of cougars in the San Andres Mountains (1986-1996), funded by NM Game and Fish. All our comments and positions have been based on his work, input and recommendations on cougar management in NM.

Please write to the addresses provided below, and ask NM Game and Fish to reduce the cougar harvest limit in accordance with the results of Dr. Logan’s study.

Two items are pasted below:
1) background on cougar management in NM
2) talking points to help you form comments

Thank you in advance!

Write to:

Rick Winslow
NM Department of Game and Fish
P.O. Box 25112
Santa Fe, NM 87504

Also, write the State Game commissioners at the following addresses:
Guy Riordan, Chairman
9514 Kandace Drive, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87114
Home (505) 897-1371
Fax (505) 881-5430

Alfredo Montoya, Vice-Chairman
P.O. Box 856
San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico 87566
Home (505) 852-2551
Fax (505)747-2121

David Henderson
P.O. Box 9314
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Work (505) 983-4609
Fax (505) 983-2355

Jennifer Atchley Montoya
4010 Oleta Drive, Apt. A
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001
Home (505) 526-1320
Work (505) 525-9537
Fax (505) 523-2866

Tom Arvas
7905 Spain Northeast
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109
Work (505) 293-3515
Peter Pino
026 Chamisa Drive
Zia Pueblo, New Mexico 87053-6035
Work (505) 867-3304
Fax (505) 867-3308

Leo Sims
P.O. Box 2630
Hobbs, New Mexico 88241-2630
Home (505) 397-3906
Work (505) 393-3024
Fax (505) 391-6684

1) Background
Between 1985 and 1996, the Hornocker Wildlife Institute (Hornocker) conducted the most complete study of cougars ever—in New Mexico. Despite this comprehensive examination of one cougar subpopulation on the San Andreas Mountain range and the valuable information it provided on cougar biology, the number of cougars in New Mexico’s entire population and their home ranges still remains unknown. Thus, it makes sense to use the best available science to obtain estimates of the population’s density.

New Mexico Game and Fish claimed but actually failed to use this study and others for implementing a scientifically sound cougar management plan. On the other hand, using the Hornocker study, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) calculated that the best available information suggests there are approximately 1,000 adult cougars in New Mexico.

Based on other results of the Hornocker study, and because there is so much uncertainty about the cougar population and its trends, Dr. Ken Logan, the study’s lead researcher and co-author of Desert Puma, recommended that New Mexico’s sport-hunting kill rate not exceed 11% of adult cougars in those units where the state wanted to maintain a sustainable population. Eleven percent would represent about 110 cougars killed per year. Dr. Logan also recommended on-the-ground monitoring of the effects of the killing, to begin to establish field corroboration of the estimates.

Ignoring this advice, the former New Mexico Game Commission instituted a quota of 234 for the 2002-2003 season—the highest in 20 years. That quota remained for the 2003-2004 season.

The average number of lions killed in New Mexico between 1981 and 1996 was 110; strikingly, the same recommended number that would likely achieve a sustainable kill rate. Yet between 1996 and 2001, the average number killed each year was 177. And in 2002, hunters killed 203 lions; in 2003 (as of 4/7/03) 257 were killed (179 + 45 on the Bighorn sheep ranges).

This trend toward higher kill quotas came as a result of policies passed by the former New Mexico Game Commission. In September 2001, in addition to a 234 quota for the 2002-2003 season, the Commission subsequently approved unlimited year-round hunting on private lands, in bighorn sheep areas, and in three southeastern New Mexico Game Management Units.

Season: Oct 1 – Mar 31 (except in some units and private lands where it is year round)
Classification: Big Game (as of 1971).
Females: Females with spotted kittens prohibited
Kittens: Not allowed to take kittens that show spots
Hunting tags: Resident $33; Non-Resident $210
Dogs: Licensed hunter must be present when dogs are released; no training season
Quota 2004: 234
Bag Limit: One/hunter; except in bighorn sheep ranges and in three additional Game Management Units, it is two.
Cougars Killed by Wildlife Services: changes each year

2) Talking Points
a. The current cougar quota and regulations are reckless and extreme. The Department's zone management system should be established so that no more than about 110 cougars are killed each year. This quota not only should include sport hunting kills, but also any other "management kills" such as in bighorn sheep areas.

Detail behind the point:

In previous years, the Department recommended and the former Commission approved a quota of 231-234 cougars, with additional allowances for a second cougar tag (for all cougar hunters) and no quotas in all bighorn sheep ranges (Manzano, Ladrone, Little and Big Hatchet, Peloncillo and San Andres Mountains). Former Department personnel admitted that this could result in killing as many as 1/3 (33%) of the state’s adult cougars. The former Commission also approved year-round hunting of cougars on private lands. These decisions of the former Commission are also reckless and extreme.

The Hornocker Wildlife Institute’s 10-year study of cougars in New Mexico’s San Andres Mountains recommended that the allowable harvest of cougars for long-range maintenance of cougars is 11% of adult cougars. That translates into only about 110 cougars.

A few years ago, when Ken Logan, senior author of the Hornocker study, was asked about the efficacy of even a 28% cougar harvest, he said that a 28% harvest rate of adults is at the critical boundary between population sustainability and population collapse. It’s important to recognize that the Department’s current quota proposal goes even further – to kill at a 33% rate. This is reckless and irresponsible.

b. More cougar refuges are needed, to account for the fact that no one really knows how many cougars are in NM, and to mitigate the past few years of extreme quotas.

Details behind the point:
In addition to the extreme quotas recommended, the Department currently has no true cougar refuges (with zero kill), in direct opposition to the Hornocker study’s recommendation for a northern and southern refuge (zero quota) of at least 1,000 square miles each. True refuges would serve to act as "biological savings accounts" to mitigate management errors as well as uncertainties about the cougar population. Currently, no one in the Department can confidently say what is the trend in our state’s cougar population – in any area of the state. Yet despite the lack of the most basic information about cougars – both population or population trend - the regulations result in many more cougars killed than is sustainable.

c. The Department has to figure out a way to implement on the ground monitoring, which was a major recommendation in the Hornocker study. Absent the ability to do so, the cougar quota MUST be very conservative, since the population and population trend of cougars is not known.

d. For the past many years, cougar management in New Mexico has been based solely on a narrow political agenda, primarily dictated by extreme ranching interests. Cougar management should be determined by the best available science and broad public input, not narrow private interests bent on decimating the cougar in our state.


Also see: APNM Cougar Campaign